Frank T. Wheeler Elementary School Renovation Project Update

Project Superintendent Matt Olshefski from O & G Industries, Inc. was recently interviewed by Wheeler fifth grader Rebecca Curtis, followed by a tour of the building renvoation provided by Mr. Olshefski.

1. What is your job?
My job is to oversee and plan the three phases of the Wheeler School renovation project while maintaining an active school environment. My job title is “Project Superintendent” – I am like the “principal” of the job site.

2. What other types of workers are working on the Wheeler renovation?
We have many different people working in different jobs throughout the school renovation project. They include the site crew, demolition workers, carpenters, iron workers, plumbers, electricians, and Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) workers.

3. What work has been done so far for the construction project, and what is coming next?
Demolition of the interior of East wing classrooms and hallways has been completed. Structural reinforcements are in progress, and new walls and window framing is currently being built. Outside of the school building, the site contractor is digging and installing new utilities (water, sewer and drainage etc.), and digging foundations for the connector hallway and sidewalk ramps.

4. When will the new school be finished?
Phase 1 (East Wing) will be completed for students returning from winter break in January, 2019.
Phase 2 (West Wing) will be completed for students returning from summer break in 2019.
Phase 3 (South Wing) will be completed along with the rest of the outside improvements in the Spring of 2020.

5. How are you keeping all of the students safe during the construction project?
Safety is our number one priority, because Wheeler is a school before it is a job site. We have ongoing communication and coordination with all of the Wheeler School staff and Principal Batchelder during every step of the renovation project. We pre-plan our work activities in a defined construction zone and work inside those areas. We also schedule some of the work to happen when students are not at school.

6. Why did you have to have teachers and students change classrooms during the construction project?
Phasing is an important part of the plan so that we can perform the construction work in each area, one section at a time, and still be able to have teachers and students attend classes throughout the school year. As each renovation phase is completed, teachers and students get to move into brand new, finished classrooms while we maintain the existing parts of the building during the whole construction process.

7. Is the first part of the project on schedule to move ahead to the next part and when will the whole project be finished?
The first part of the project is on schedule to be completed for Winter Break in December of this year.
The entire project is scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2020.

8. How will the outside and the inside of the school look different after the renovation?
The outside will be very similar to how it is now, but with upgraded / new windows, siding, and a new roof. The main entrance and main offices will be moving to a brand new entrance next to the parking lot in West Wing of the school. There will also be a new hallway connecting the East and West wings at the North side of the school, which will create a new courtyard with planters and seating in a secure setting. The play scape areas, parking, sidewalks and sports field are also being fully renovated.
The inside of the school will look very different. It is essentially a new school being built inside of the old school shell. The building is being modernized with new heating and cooling throughout. The main office will be located where a classroom is currently in the West wing of the school and the current location of the main office is being rebuilt to accommodate new computer lab and staff resource areas. The Gym, Library and Cafeteria are all getting renovations and improvements, as well as all classrooms throughout the building.

9. Are you planning on doing another renovation on Wheeler later?
There are no plans to do further renovations. Once this project is complete the entire school will have been fully renovated.

10. Have there been any surprises with the project so far?
We haven’t had any surprises, but have discovered some challenges making the new fit with the old. All of these are expected and the design team has been great to work with to sort through any discovered conditions.